10 Must-Dos at Auction of Washington Wines Picnic

Leslie Kelly

The Auction of Washington Wines weekend is upon us, and Thursday's fabulous kickoff event—aptly named PIcnic—showcases everything we love about summer and wine tasting in Woodinville Wine Country. This year’s auction has an Olympics-style gold medal theme, and the opening ceremony will not disappoint. Picnic (and Saturday's Gala Auction—at which former Washington Olympians are rumored to be in attendance) is held on the gorgeous grounds of Chateau Ste. Michelle Winery. The event will feature an amazing array of Washington State’s finest reds, whites and rosé--many poured by winemakers themselves--all accompanied by a spread worthy of being splashed across pages of a glossy food magazine. Here are the Top 10 tips for making the most of your time at the Picnic & Barrel Auction. The picnic is not yet sold out, so nab your tickets here:

1. Eat dessert first
OK, we’re teasing, but you definitely do not want to miss the beauties in the always-creative dessert tent created by Nikol Nakamura, the pastry chef at Tulalip Resort Casino, who’s rolling out some clever take-offs on retro-style faves this year. (Look for Leslie Kelly's dessert preview later this week!)

2. Try your luck
Everyone’s a winner at these games of chance whether it’s the Wine Bottle Ring Toss, Chip A Cork, Restaurant Balloon Pop or the always popular Wine Pull. Or, buy a ticket for a chance to win a cruise on Holland America Line.

3. Get A perfect pour

Be on the lookout for winemakers—the nearly 100 in attendance—many of them walking through the ebullient crowds, filling glasses and talking shop or posing for pics with their fans.

4. Taste through AVAs

There will be no pop quiz if you stop by the Seattle magazine table to learn about Washington state’s distinctive viticultural areas, aka AVAs. Taste the influence of terroir, as one varietal from several different growing regions is showcased. We'll be pouring Cabernet Sauvignon from various AVAs.

5. Claim your space

Reserve a blanket (new this year) and meet up with a group of friends to swap tasting notes and bidding strategies.

6. Make a match

Find the ultimate food and wine pairing while nibbling on the fantastic fare prepared by the brilliant culinary crew from the Tulalip Resort Casino. Don’t miss their sensational preparation of smoked salmon, a runaway hit every summer.

7. Be a winner

Let those competitive juices flow while bidding in the Barrel Auction (see below). Winners will be the first to own special wines yet-to-be-released—definite bragging rights!

8. Share the wines you taste

Save information on the wines you taste at Picnic, share favorites on Facebook and vote for your favorites by “pressing” the bar codes on the wine bottles with your Paperbuttons app now available at the App Store.

9. Make the commute a breeze

Hop the shuttle from downtown Seattle (Stops at El Gaucho and The Fairmont Olympic Hotel), and get into the spirit on the ride to the Eastside with your fellow picnickers.

10. Expect the unexpected

We have a few surprises in store. Last year, it was the Seattle Sounders elite marching band. You just never know what we’ll come up with to entertain and delight guests at this year’s Picnic.

Be the first to own yet-to-be-released wines! Eighteen participating wineries will pour barrel samples of future releases under the Barrel Auction tents. Remember, these beauties are works in progress—it could be a few years until they reach their peak. Winning bidders will receive a case of wine from the barrel they select, so ask questions and learn more about these upcoming releases at these tastings.

How it Works:
If you like what you taste, then simply write your bid on one of our wooden plaques and a volunteer will place it on the bid board. Each bid must be higher than the previous bid and only the top 5 bids for each winery will be on the board at one time. Once you have been outbid, then your plaque will be knocked off and you will need to bid again! There is always furiously rapid-fire bidding near the end but once the whistle blows, the five bidders with plaques on the board will be declared the winners! The wineries will send your case of wine once it’s bottled and ready for release (which could be up to 2 years).

The Picnic & Barrel Auction and Saturday's Gala both benefit the Seattle Children's Hospital and Washington State University’s Viticulture & Enology Program.

Participating Wineries:

Adams Bench
Andrew Will
Boudreaux Cellars
Col Solare
Corliss Estates
DeLille Cellars
JM Cellars
L’Ecole N° 41
Long Shadows
Pepper Bridge Winery
Reynvaan Family Vineyards
Sparkman Cellars
Va Piano
Walla Walla Vintners
Woodward Canyon
And a special surprise from Yakima Valley Wine Growers